International think-tank: Fidesz’s victory migh threaten Hungarian democracy
Policy Solutions presented its annual review of Hungarian politics last week. According to them, it is very likely that Fidesz is going to win the parliamentary elections this April. However, Fidesz’s victory might result in further governmental expansion in the economy, the media, and local governments. The parties of the leftwing and liberal opposition were positioning themselves during 2017 already for the post-April 2018 period. This gave a unique opportunity for Jobbik to become the main challenger of the governing party. The once radical party’s shift towards a people’s party is honest – according to Policy Solutions. Moreover, since Fidesz moved to the right of the Hungarian political spectrum, Jobbik can position itself in the centre and can broaden its base. Our summary of the review.
’We protect Hungary!’
To start with, polls show that another two-thirds majority voting for Fidesz in this April is not impossible, at all. However, there is a substantial group of electorates who are unlikely to participate because they never or rarely vote. This means that
even governing parties cannot lie back.
According to Policy Solutions, Fidesz owed its victory in 2014 mostly to the economic development. However, this year Fidesz will not rely on the economy, though Hungary’s economy is – from a certain point of view – in a better shape than it was 3.5 years ago. The overall theme will be protection from Brussels, the Soros plan, the Muslim invasion and demographic challenges.
Thus, a large part of Fidesz’s campaign is based on successful fear-mongering regarding the refugee crisis and the European Union. The government’s communication is simple:
only they can protect Hungary from the refugees, from George Soros’s “dangerous” plan and Brussels.
Interestingly, surveys suggest that for the most part Hungarians are aware of some of the costs of this protection. These are, for example, the desolate state of the health and education systems, systemic corruption, rising inequalities. However, they accept it more than any other government since regime transition because they think that this one delivers what the public wants.
Keys for victory: media, communication, and economic growth
According to the review, the Hungarian economy entered a period of sustained growth in 2017. However, this is based mostly on the continuous inflow of EU development funds and a pre-election consumption surge. While Hungary sustained its macroeconomic stability,
regional development disparities, a high level of economic inequality, as well as systemic corruption
remained the hallmarks of the economy. Moreover, most public funds went to brick and mortar projects. In contrast, the share of health care and other crucial areas of social protection continued their gradual decline. Finally, Hungary’s position remained unchanged in international competitiveness rankings. Most countries in the region grew quicker and Hungary fell behind Slovakia and Poland in the last seven years.
Of course, the
government talks only about the brighter side of the economy.
They can do so since Fidesz could shift the political balance towards the governing parties in the last few years. Though critical thoughts still have a good chance to spread online,
Fidesz’s dominance has increased to unprecedented levels in the TV, radio and local newspaper markets.
For example, they control all regional dailies, the second largest tabloid, Bors and Hungary’s second largest commercial television channel, TV2. Furthermore, Fidesz dominates near completely sales houses that sell media advertising and outdoor advertising companies. To make matters worse, they managed to take over some influential and critical or neutral newspapers which were either transformed into pro-Fidesz ones or closed like Népszabadság.
Fidesz’s victory can lead to “Huxit”?
According to Policy Solutions, following a victory in 2018, it would not be surprising if Fidesz would take further steps towards the reduction of the role of local governments, a clear dominance in the media market, or if civil society organisations would be attacked at the local level as well. PS states that this is because
the party’s commitment to democracy is questionable.
Furthermore, nothing in the past seven years suggests that generosity will be on the agenda. For the long term, however, the vital issue is
whether Fidesz even intends to keep Hungary in the EU.
Left-wing opposition parties fight only each other
According to the study, 2017 has been a wasted year for the leftwing and liberal opposition. Furthermore, these parties appear to have resigned themselves to another massive victory for Fidesz. In fact, the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) that had dominated the centre-left for two decades between 1990 and 2010 has been challenged by a rising number of new formations.
PS clears that
the political actors on the left are only positioning themselves for the post-April 2018
struggle for dominance.
Moreover, even if LMP’s PM candidate Bernadett Szél, MSZP-DK’s candidate Gergely Karácsony or the Momentum party can build their reputation to turn into serious challengers, then this process probably will take longer than the few months remaining until April 2018.
Jobbik – a real shift towards a people’s party
According to the study, it became clear in 2014 that Jobbik needs to readjust its strategy to win power. Thus, Gábor Vona announced a radical turn in the party’s political communication and general outlook. Jobbik would become a mainstream “people’s party” competing with the governing party for the moderate centre ground in Hungarian politics.
Fidesz (and its media) became totally hostile towards Jobbik
in the last few years. In contrast, the governing party’s attitude towards MSZP considered a mortal enemy once, has become remarkably relaxed.
The biggest attack on Jobbik came in December, only four months before the parliamentary election. As we reported, State Audit Office – led by a former Fidesz MP – fined Jobbik 662 million forints (EUR 2.2M). However, this allowed the party to cast itself as a victim of unreasonable and unfair state persecution. Furthermore, they could point out that these actions
verify their claim to be the main opposition force and the only real threat to the governing party.
Internal struggles on the left enabled Jobbik to become the main challenger
Though it remains the most-supported opposition party, there is no indication of a genuine movement in the electorate towards Jobbik. However, PS’s study claims that
the shift in Jobbik’s attitude is not only rhetorical.
According to them, it is hard to overstate the importance of the party’s condemnation of the amendment of the higher education law. This aimed at driving the Central European University – originally founded but no longer controlled by George Soros – out of Hungary.
Furthermore, the intense anti-Brussels campaign conducted by the government stands in stark contrast with Jobbik’s cautious rapprochement towards the EU. In this case, the review mentions Jobbik’s European Citizens’ Initiative for a Wage Union.
in case of Fidesz, any pretension to being a centrist party is almost completely gone
– states the study. Thus, Jobbik can position itself to the centre in order to broaden its base. The party has already successes in this regard since many former Fidesz-supporter intellectuals already joined it. Some of them even run in the following elections as candidates of the party. According to them, they would like to replace the anti-democratic and corrupt Orbán-regime.
Photos: MTI, Facebook, Béli Balázs
Source: Policy Solutions, Daily News Hungary